Conservatism in a secular America
The future of the not-so-silent emerging majority remains uncertain. If Roe is overthrown, it could well deepen the contradictions within the uneasy alliance of new and old forms of social conservatism. In the days after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion was leaked, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy – perhaps the most prominent representative of the MARs – said that if Republicans tried to ban the abortion, he would become a Democrat. Just let a “woman do whatever she wants with her body,” he said, with a swear word for emphasis.
A controversy at Turning Point USA last year, a conference of young conservatives, was instructive in showing potential cracks within the new coalition. Brandi Love, a pornographic actress who describes herself as a ‘sex, drink and rock ‘n’ roll conservative’, bought tickets to the event but after online backlash she couldn’t attend it. She criticized the move, describing it as “the worst example of cancel culture” to a writer for The Daily Caller. She added that if Turning Point USA “is the future, then the future is led by puritanical, fanatically devout Christians who will demand conformity or otherwise.” A number of prominent conservatives have echoed this assertion: “I don’t give a damn who hits who, and I missed the part of the Constitution that deals with threesomes.” tweeted television commentator John Cardillo. Ben Domenech of the Federalist Okay: “The right has the opportunity to be the big party under the tent. Don’t be a bunch of prudes.
At the time, I voiced my own objections to Ms. Love’s attendance at the conference. I rejected his argument that it was overruled by free-speech hypocrites because, I wrote, it assumes that “the only valid alternative to political correctness and left-wing cultural orthodoxy is the ‘absence of any social or cultural norm’. This is the crux of the distinction between anti-revival liberals and mainstream social conservatives: disgruntled recent converts to the conservative coalition often oppose the new leftist Puritanism for the same reason that they opposed its old right counterpart: prevents them from doing and saying what they want, without social repercussions. It’s its own kind of licentiousness. Social conservatives, on the other hand, do not oppose the application of social norms as such; they oppose the application of left-wing social norms on the grounds that they are bad norms.
A resolution of these contradictions will not be necessary for the new conservatism to succeed. Every political coalition contains its fair share of internal tensions. But former social conservatives will have to decide how much they’re willing to give up in exchange for a political future, and secular converts will have to decide whether they’re more alienated by the left’s cultural authoritarianism than they are by political positions. of the GOP on issues like abortion. .
If it can be sustained, however, the secular right might be able to respect the priorities of the old religious right. Indeed, if Roe is overthrown, it will have been due to the election of a president exemplary of the new conservatism. In many ways, the new conservatism is winning where the old conservatism could not. Parental backlash against progressive pedagogy, for example, has inspired a wave of states and localities to crack down on obscenity and sexually explicit content in school libraries. While the religious right has failed on same-sex marriage, school prayer and a number of other social issues, the new conservatism – which hasn’t even fully taken shape yet – has already won a wave of victories. important. At least 17 states have passed laws aimed at restricting the teaching of critical race theory, and 14 have banned transgender athletes from participating in single-sex sports corresponding to the sex they were not assigned at birth.
The place of religious conservatives in all of this remains uncertain. Some have pointed to a new trend in Catholic thought known as postliberalism, championed primarily by Catholic scholars such as Patrick Deneen and Adrian Vermeule, as a promising alternative path for the new right. The thinkers of this tradition want to implement a specifically – and sometimes explicitly – Catholic political order. But the relationship between these intellectuals and grassroots energy has always been difficult. To the extent that there is an intersection between the two forms of conservatism, Catholic postliberals could be understood as fellow intellectuals in Trump’s culture war. But they do not define his philosophy, and in some ways they contradict it.
While the old religious right will see much to like in the new cultural conservatism, they are partners, rather than leaders, in the coalition. This is perhaps the best thing they can hope for in a rapidly secularizing country. The new cultural conservatism can protect the beleaguered minority of traditionalist Christians; it will not restore them to their preeminent place in public life, as the old religious conservatism hoped to do. But he may have a real chance of winning. And that, from a conservative point of view, is worth a lot.
Nate Hochman is a member of the National Review.
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